Chameleon Actors

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SalParadise
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Chameleon Actors

#1 Post by SalParadise » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:40 am

The one actor who I think epitomises the ability of an actor to become a chameleon is Ben Kingsley. I quickly prepared this list. Please add if any roles are missing.

Russian - Transsiberian, Shostakovich,
Jewish - Schindler's List, Simon Wiesenthal, Lucky Number Slevin, Oliver Twist, Anne Frank: The Whole Story, Moses,
Iranian/Persian - House of Sand and Fog, Prince of Persia
Italian American - Searching for Bobby Fischer
British Italian - Pascali's Island
Egyptian - Joseph
Spartan - The Triumph of Love
Arab - Harem, The Dictator
Chilean - Death and the Maiden
French - Hugo
Indian - Ghandi, The Love Guru

Yemeni? - Rules of Engagement
Arab?- Hard Labour
Jewish? - The Secret of the Sahara
English or America - countless

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#2 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:53 am

It'd be interesting to see him play a Southern (as in Southern United States) character.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#3 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:47 am

And don't forget 'Latin American' in Polanski's Death and the Maiden! Although Kingsley does have the not inconsiderable blot of his role in Mike Myers' The Love Guru to overcome!

Not to denigrate Kingsley too much, but I'm not too sure he's a great example of a 'Chameleon Actor' in the sense that outside of a few roles in which he has been stretched he has also had to deal with the bigger issue of Hollywood casting of a 'generic ethnic type' (as typified by say Omar Sharif or Gong Li in Memoirs of a Geisha) - a name actor who can play (or be willing to play) a part in lieu of an actual, relatively unknown actor of that ethnicity being used, or in the absence of anyone in the LA area to play that kind of role (For example Alan Poul in the commentary track on Mishima gets into the issue of there being a relatively small English speaking Japanese actor contingent in the L.A. area the mid to late 80s when they talk a little about the making of Ridley Scott's Black Rain, which Poul went on to produce)

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Brian C
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#4 Post by Brian C » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:37 pm

I agree with colin, and I would add that playing different nationalities is not much of a test anyway, since all that really entails in and of itself is different makeup and affecting an accent. To me, range is all about being able to play wildly different personality types, which a lot of major box office stars either don't seem willing to try (and/or perhaps, studios aren't willing to let them try).

Of course Kingsley fares well on this score as well. It's not like his roles in Oliver Twist and Schindler's List have anything in common even those he's playing Jewish characters in both.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#5 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:43 pm

Brian C wrote:I agree with colin, and I would add that playing different nationalities is not much of a test anyway, since all that really entails in and of itself is different makeup and affecting an accent. To me, range is all about being able to play wildly different personality types, which a lot of major box office stars either don't seem willing to try (and/or perhaps, studios aren't willing to let them try).
What's a better example of that than Ghandi and Don Logan from Sexy Beast?

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#6 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:05 am

J.K. Simmons is someone I'd put up there if we're going to talk about personality types. His Aryan ring-leader on Oz is as easy to loathe as it was a memorable role for him. Inevitably if you have that in mind when you go into watching him in something like Juno or even those M&M commercials he was in, it's quite the 360.

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Polybius
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#7 Post by Polybius » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:04 am

Mr Sausage wrote:What's a better example of that than Ghandi and Don Logan from Sexy Beast?
Ghandi: "You will quit India!"

Mountbatten: "No, not quite yet..."

G: "Yes! Yes! Yes, you will!!"

M: "We're working on the plans..."

G: "YES YOU WILL!!"


J.K. Simmons is an excellent example. Vern Schillinger (and his antecedent character, the racist terrorist bomber Col. Alexander Rausch on the immortal first Law & Order/Homicide crossover) on one side and Charlize's father in The Cider House Rules, the mildly goofy NYPD psychologist Emil Skoda on the various L&O incarnations and Costner's manager in For Love of the Game ("Where's my pat on the ass?") on the other, and everything in between.

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GaryC
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#8 Post by GaryC » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:43 am

In past decades, Vladimir Sokoloff was an actor particularly known for the range of nationalities he played.

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colinr0380
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#9 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:07 am

Polybius wrote:J.K. Simmons is an excellent example. Vern Schillinger (and his antecedent character, the racist terrorist bomber Col. Alexander Rausch on the immortal first Law & Order/Homicide crossover) on one side and Charlize's father in The Cider House Rules, the mildly goofy NYPD psychologist Emil Skoda on the various L&O incarnations and Costner's manager in For Love of the Game ("Where's my pat on the ass?") on the other, and everything in between.
Plus his voicing of Cave Johnson in Portal 2!

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MichaelB
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#10 Post by MichaelB » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:12 am

I saw Michael Sheen being interviewed on television the other night, and barely recognised him, what with his curly hair and Welsh accent.

But any single individual who can convincingly play real-life figures as wildly diverse as Tony Blair, Brian Clough, David Frost and Kenneth Williams is bound to want to look and sound as different as possible from any of them in real life.

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Always Points North
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Re: Chameleon Actors

#11 Post by Always Points North » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:59 am

Ronald Lacey was an interesting actor because, even when he didn't look particularly different, he'd be doing something that made each character tangibly fresh. Probably his most famous roles are Toht in Indiana Jones and the Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder (the latter surely the most chameleonic) but, irrespective of makeup, it's his subtle ability to refresh that makes me think he was one of the best.

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